Those who are new to travel rewards or Aeroplan can calmly await the new program’s launch in November while reading up on all the changes, but if you already have a stash of Aeroplan miles or an Aeroplan credit card, you have a bit more work: there are things you should do to take advantage of the current rules, for example, booking some future trips (since you can still book flights into October 2021 at the current prices).
Also, cardholders might want to no longer be cardholders (temporarily)…
Look, as we mentioned in the pros and cons article, while the program changes are positive as a whole, that doesn’t mean it is 100% positive—nothing ever is.
Since some aspects of the current Aeroplan program are to your advantage (many types of bookings), there are opportunities that will disappear come November 8th.
Of course, the current pandemic situation does make this a bit more challenging, since the planning/booking part is the only part of the travel experience that has actually changed, as we explained in our post about what it’s like to travel to Greece during the pandemic (Turkey’s coming next)… assuming you choose safe countries and don’t mind the quarantine when returning (which is in place until at least September 30th).
So here is your action plan as an Aeroplan member.
Future flight bookings
If you wish to travel at some point before October 2021, you should definitely take advantage of booking future flights with the current rules. Aeroplan allows you to book nearly a full year ahead, so in early November you’ll be able to book into late October 2021.
While it may seem risky to book given the current uncertainty, keep in mind one of the best pro tips: whenever an airline makes an involuntary schedule change, you are always eligible for a free change or a full refund. Obviously, airlines are exceptionally fighting that last part for cash bookings currently because of the pandemic as we’ve mentioned again last weekend, but for Aeroplan bookings, there has never been an issue: if they change your flight ever so slightly, you can get a refund of your points.
So given the state of things, some involuntary change (even a minor one) for bookings in 2021 seems pretty likely, giving you a potential option to get a free refund (though a change is not guaranteed to happen of course).
Finally, we recommend you read the basics of the new pricing mechanism so that you can understand which types of bookings will price higher. We’ll soon share a comparison of old prices and new prices from each Canadian city.
But here is the overview of the 6 main types of flights that should be booked before November 8th.
1. Trips with 2 destinations within Canada and the USA
Examples: Canada to California and Utah in one trip, Eastern Canada to Vancouver and Calgary in one trip, etc.
One of the easiest current sweet spots of Aeroplan is that you get 2 destinations for the exact same price as just one destination (on roundtrip bookings only, not on one-ways). Montreal to Los Angeles is 25,000 miles roundtrip, but Montreal to Salt Lake City to Los Angeles is also 25,000 miles roundtrip, so you can add a stop to visit Utah’s 5 beautiful National Parks.
Same thing for flights within Canada: I explained it during Aeroplan’s incredible 50% off sale: you can visit the Northwest Territories and Yukon for the same price as just one destination. Combine Calgary and Vancouver for the same price as just one of them.
While stopovers will remain in the new program (and in a way, will be even more generous, even if they’ll cost you an extra 5,000 points) flights within Canada and the USA will not be eligible for stopovers at all. It’s the only geographical exclusion to this rule.
It was a great way to maximize value, one I and many other travelers will miss. I had just used it again last year, when I added an extra destination to my Louisiana trip for free, which allowed me to visit South Padre Island and the Rio Grande Valley region of Southern Texas for the exact same 25,000 miles I would have paid for just my flight to Louisiana.
2. Longer flights within Canada and the USA
Examples: Montreal/Toronto to Alaska/Northern Canada, Vancouver to Miami, etc.
Most Aeroplan redemptions are for flights within Canada and the USA, so even if it only applies to very few routes, it’s worth specifically mentioning that the longest flights within the 2 countries will now cost more (while the short and medium ones will cost less). Currently, flights to neighboring provinces and states are 15,000 miles roundtrip, while it’s 25,000 miles roundtrip to everywhere else in Canada and the USA.
The longest flights will now cost 45,000 roundtrip, so if you want to take advantage of the sweet sport for the destinations that are further away, it’s now or never. This is for Canada and the US only as I said, because for longer flights within North America but outside of Canada and the US, like Mexico and the Caribbean, the change is actually very positive in many cases, as it will now cost less.
I talked about the sweet spot to Northern Canada specifically last weekend, and as I mentioned, depending on the destination, maybe you’re better off waiting for November to avoid the surcharges. But if you want to use the free stopover to see two destinations or visit the remote spots the furthest away depending on where you live, maybe you come out ahead with the current system.
Keep in mind that domestic partners include more than just Canadian North: there is also Air Creebec from Quebec and Ontario to the North, and Calm Air from Manitoba to the North.
3. Air Canada flights that are a good value
Examples: flights to expensive destinations, flights for peak travel periods, etc.
As we’ve explained, Air Canada flights will price dynamically in the new Aeroplan (this is just for Air Canada—not partner airlines). So if you have flights that give you good value at the current prices and with the current surcharges (for flights that are expensive in cash mostly) or that you absolutely want a nonstop flight that isn’t served by partner airlines, then you can lock in the price if you are a bit scared of how Air Canada’s algorithm will set those prices dynamically (we all are).
In short Flytrippers’ valuation of the current Aeroplan is 1.5¢ per point. Usually, the decision is simple: if a redemption gives you 1.5¢ per point, it’s good. But now you should also consider the value that that same redemption will give you come November 8th.
4. Flights on surcharge-free partner airlines
Examples: Canada to the USA on United Airlines, Canada to the Middle East on Turkish Airlines, etc.
Whether it is long-haul or even within North America, if you want to book a partner airline that doesn’t impose surcharges currently (full list here), you are better off booking before November 8th. The elimination of surcharges in the new program obviously is not a benefit for these partner airlines, and the new $39 partner booking fee actually increases the cash co-pay for the currently surcharge-free airlines.
Combine that with the pricing increases; it’s often better to book now. Again, it depends on the departure and destination.
5. Almost all long-haul flights
Examples: Canada to the Middle East, Canada to Australia, etc.
Since most long-haul flights are going up in price, if you have a trip planned that is a good use of Aeroplan, you are better off booking it before the changes. While there are many very interesting new sweet spots, long-haul flights are just not one of them in general. You can double-check your specific desired long-haul destination, but chances are the price is increasing.
6. Mini-Round-The-World booking
Examples: Canada to Europe and Asia on one ticket, Canada to Asia and Australia on one ticket, etc.
To be clear, the iconic sweet spot known as the Mini-RTW will remain in the new Aeroplan program (you’ll even be able to once again get 3 destinations instead of just 2 like it used to be originally and the routing rules will be even more generous). But it will cost a bit more.
So while this requires a sizeable stash of Aeroplan miles, if you’ve always wanted to do book the Mini-RTW, it could make sense to do so now, especially if 2 destinations are enough for you.
In short, the Mini-RTW is for those who want to visit different regions on the same trip for the same price, a bit like the above North American stopover. You can even add many long layovers in the cities you transit (up to 24 hours) which is how I got 6 “destinations” (3 real ones and 3 long layovers) for the price of 1 destination on my own epic 6-stop 13-flight Mini-RTW, as explained in that post about the old Aeroplan program.
Credit card strategy
I’ve covered the overall credit card strategy at the beginning of the post about the 11 new Aeroplan credit cards.
But let’s take a closer look at what it means for those who already have an Aeroplan credit card.
Or rather, I’ll ask you a question: are you interested in getting a new welcome bonus in November?
If so, the best cards will likely be the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite and CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite. If you have those right now, you won’t be able to get the welcome bonus.
But if you were to downgrade them this week, you’d be eligible for the new welcome bonuses when the new versions of the card relaunch.
- TD’s current policy is that the welcome bonus applies as long as you haven’t “opened an account in the last 6 months”
- CIBC’s current policy is that the welcome bonus applies for “newly approved card accounts”
So for those who asked why we didn’t necessarily promote the decent TD offers in the past months, it’s in part due to this 6-month rule. The offer should be better with the new program.
If you are still getting started in travel rewards, all this should make you see the many possibilities!
In all cases, the risk of downgrading is nonexistent. And if you have a longer credit history or many more cards, then you can also consider just closing the card outright.
What is a product downgrade? You simply call and ask to keep your credit history and keep your account open, but have it transferred to a no-annual fee card.
That way you keep your average age of credit accounts older, which is very important for your credit score (the #1 mistake beginners make is closing old credit cards because they believe the myth that having more cards is bad which is completely false).
I will probably reconsider having both my TD Aeroplan and CIBC Aeroplan cards personally…
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This is your Aeroplan action plan if you are already a member, specifically if you already have a stash of points and/or a co-branded credit card.
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Featured image: South Padre Island (photo credit: Obed Esquivel)
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